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Metal and Medals: Student with Olympic Hopes

Anna Lang
Anna Lang
Anna Lang

Men are in the majority in cycling and engineering, but Anna Lang is proving that a woman can excel in both. Simultaneously. The Ph.D. candidate in the Jacobs School's Structural Engineering Department is one of the fastest female cyclists in the country, and she is focused on earthquake-safety engineering. An eighttime collegiate champion, Lang hopes to be an alternate on the U.S. Cycling Team in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She also hopes to be a member of the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Lang can sprint as fast as 45 mph on the velodrome track, but she likes to take it easy in the early going, riding in the draft of other cyclists. "The race doesn't start for me until the last couple of laps," she says. "Then it's positioning and sprinting to the line."

Lang started racing as an undergraduate at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where she received a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering. After graduating from Cal Poly she worked for two years designing multi-million-dollar homes in the San Francisco Bay area. A trip to Mexico after a major earthquake motivated her to attend graduate school at UCSD and study earthquake engineering and hazard mitigation, her academic passions.

During her first year in graduate school, she didn't compete because her coursework was too demanding. Later, she got back on the bike. "I haven't reached my athletic potential; that alone is what drives me," she says.

Lang is one of only eight women out of 58 total students in the Structural Engineering Department's doctoral program. "I believe women in technical fields can bring unique perspectives to problems not considered by males," she says. "It takes a confident, intelligent woman to step up and voice that perspective."

Gil Hegemier, chair of the Structural Engineering Department, says most of his department's female graduates have become successful in the professional world, but Lang's calling is unique among nearly all students. He has encouraged her Olympic dreams. "This is something that comes around once," he says. "I suspect if she didn't take a shot at this, she would really regret it."

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